By ERICK WALKER
Kentwood sophomore Rui Li went from the top to the bottom in less than an hour Wednesday afternoon at the Class 4A state high school golf tournament in Bellingham.
In the end, however, the articulate and classy 16-year-old finished on the high road at Sudden Valley Golf Course.
After carding a 70 on Tuesday and taking a five-stroke lead over second-place Sadena Parks of Bethel heading into play Wednesday, Li appeared primed for her first state title.
Instead, the sweet-swinging sophomore gave up the lead to Parks on the 17th hole, then ran into a scorecard glitch after the tournament and was disqualified.
“It’s a lesson learned,” admitted Li, who signed and turned in her scorecard moments after the tournament, only to realize that there was a discrepancy on the 18th hole.
Li parred the final hole of the tournament, bringing her two-day total to 144, just two strokes off the pace of eventual champion Parks. Li’s scorecard, however, indicated she had birdied the final hole.
The foul-up cost Li her second-place medal.
“We were all caught up in the moment and nobody was paying attention,” she said.
Nobody noticed the glitch, but Li, who reported the error to tournament officials.
“(Sadena) and I both thought I birdied the hole,” said Li, who took 10th last year as a freshmen. “The (officials) told me I could’ve gotten away with it, but I guess that’s just what happens.”
Despite the disqualification, Li delivered her finest performance of the season, sinking six birdies on the first day and four more on the second.
The hot start made Li the favorite heading into the final round.
“The title was basically in my hands,” she said.
And though Li missed out on state gold and a second-place medal, she did earn the tournament’s Sportsmanship Award, an honor given out before scorecards are turned in. Asked if she’d turn herself in again given the chance, Li didn’t hesitate with a response.
“I have no regrets,” she said. “We’ll take it and move on. It’s more motivation to work harder for next year.”
While Li went from contender to disqualified, Kentridge sophomore Lauren Sewell was as steady as they came, carding a 77 the first day and a 81 the second. Her two-day total of 158 was good enough for fifth place.
“I am pretty happy with a top-five finish,” said Sewell, who took seventh at state last year. “And I have a couple more years to get better.”
On the 16th hole of the final round, no one was better than Sewell, who nearly tagged the first ace of her young career. Sewell drove the green on the 130-yard par-3, just missing the cup by a few inches.
“I knew it was going to be right on the stick, but I was surprised with how close it was,” she said.
Sewell’s fifth-place finish along, with Krystina Zerr’s 21st-place performance and Tickle Yamanaka’s 38th-place finish helped the Chargers take fourth in the team race with 58.5 points.
Redmond won the team title with 83 points.
Things didn’t go quite as smoothly for Kentridge’s Chris Cho, who entered the boys tournament at Avalon Golf Links in Burlington among the favorites after placing in the top five in his previous three state trips. Cho carded a two-day total of 155, good enough for 27th.
“I wasn’t hitting the ball how I anticipated,” Cho said. “But I hit 14 greens in the air, I just couldn’t get anything to drop.
“It was mainly my putting.”
While Cho struggled, teammate Sean McMullen delivered an impressive two days, carding a 149 and tying with two others for sixth place.
Meanwhile, Kentwood pushed three golfers into the top 40: Thomas Zavada and Nick Varelia tied for 11th with two-day totals of 151 while Kent Hagen finished in 39th with a 163.
Reid Martin helped Kamiak run away with the team race, winning the individual title by five strokes after shooting a 142. Kamiak finished with 134.5 points, followed by Woodinville (75), Kentwood (59) and Kentridge (46.5).
• ALSO: Tahoma’s Alisa Fairweather was the only other local golfer to finish among the top 40, tying for 27th place in the girls tournament with a 179.